Copycat recipes from your favorite restaurant
We all know that one of the most important ways to save money is to not go to restaurants, but cook your own food at home instead. Making that kind of resolution is easier said than done. You can be all fired up to never go to a restaurant again, but sooner or later you get a craving for your favorite meal at your favorite restaurant and find yourself in a showdown with temptation. Perhaps you have more willpower than me, but that is a battle I normally lose. There is a way to have your favorite restaurant meal without the high restaurant prices, though. You can use copycat recipes to make your favorite restaurant meals at home cooking prices.
How to find copycat recipes
Finding your favorite restaurant recipe is easy. There are several books and websites dedicated to helping you make your favorite meals at home. I have tried many of these. While I have had a few failures, such as the inedible lobster chowder copied from Longhorn Steakhouse I poured down the garbage disposal most of the recipes have been great.
You can try to find your recipe right here with this custom Google search. Try it! Just type in “(restaurant name here) (name of food here) recipe” and see what you find.
How much money can copycat recipes save?
How much money you save depends on many different factors of course. To help you calculate exactly how much a recipe costs to make, I have taken my original recipe cost calculator and added a few lines to it to calculate your savings. The new copycat recipes savings calculator can be found at the bottom of this article.
Lets try an example though. My favorite meal at a restaurant has to be the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden. Now unlimited soup and bread sticks at the Olive Garden is a very reasonable $6, so there are obviously recipes that will save you a lot more than this one, but this is a good place to start.
I found a recipe for the soup at gimmesomeoven.com, and a recipe for the bread sticks at handletheheat.com. I will let you know that I used chicken bouillon instead in place of chicken broth because it is cheaper, left out the bacon to make it just a little healthier, used garlic powder instead of garlic cloves for the sake of simplicity, and did not use onions because onions are disgusting and have no place being used in food.
Here is an analysis of how much I saved:
|1lb Italian sausage||3.00||1||3.00|
|1 tbsp olive oil||9.79||102||0.10|
|4 cups chicken broth||1.49||6.25||0.24|
|2 cups kale||1.89||2||0.95|
|1 cup cream||2.69||1||2.69|
|For the bread sticks|
|1.5 tsp yeast||6.39||128||0.05|
|2 tbsp. sugar||2.29||192||0.01|
|5 tbsp. butter||3.00||18||0.16|
|2 tsp salt||1.00||300||0.00|
|1.5 tsp garlic powder||1.50||50||0.02|
|3.5 cups flour||3.59||10||0.36|
|Bread sticks total||0.61|
|Soup and Bread sticks total||8.83|
|Number of meals||6|
|Cost per meal at home||1.47|
|Cost per meal at restaurant||6.00|
|Savings per meal||4.53|
It turned out delicious!
Since this made enough food for 6 meals, I saved a total of about $27. That is pretty good considering I was ordering one of the cheapest things on the menu. How much could you save if you made something on the menu that costs much more than $6?
Restaurants make it easy for you
Sometimes it is even easier than that. My favorite fast food restaurant is Arbys, which is probably on the high-end of fast food cost. However, Arby’s makes it incredibly easy to make their food at home. If I was making my favorite Arby’s meal at home, roast beef, hamburger buns, and cheese would be very easy to get, but I would also need Arby’s sauce and Arby’s curly fries, which seem must harder to make. Luckily for me, I don’t have to make these, Arby’s will just sell them to me. The curly fries can be purchased in the frozen foods section of my local grocery store and Arby’s sauce is being sold for a limited time at their restaurants. Since it is available for a limited time I bought several bottles. As you can see, my cheap at home version of Arby’s turned out great:
Playing pretend with kids
My kids sometimes get frustrated that we don’t go out to eat more, and as somebody who grew up with a cheap father, I completely understand. My kids are a little to big for this game now, but when they were younger I would copy their favorite McDonald’s meal and play a pretend game with them where they would order a chicken nuggets happy meal and then I would serve them some chicken nuggets and fries I had made at home. They thought that game was just as much fun as going to a restaurant.
So, exactly how much will YOU save?
But enough about how much I save, let’s get to the important question. How much can YOU save? Use this calculator to find out. Let me know what your results were in the comments section below.
Picture by Steve Snodgrass